The Frugal Foodie: Firefly’s Danny Bortnick

Cheering for your team doesn’t have to leave you rooting through your wallet. Daniel Bortnick of Firefly shows us how to cook a tailgate for 15 for less than $75.

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The maroon sweatpants and white jersey trimmed in red and gold give it away: Although Daniel Bortnick grew up in Wisconsin, he’s a big-time Redskins fan.

Suited up and ready to go, the chef at Firefly in DC’s West End has accepted the Frugal Foodie challenge and agreed to cook a tailgate party for 15. Not including drinks or standard pantry items—sugar, flour, olive oil—the bill can’t exceed $75.

At the supermarket, Bortnick studies his meat options before choosing a roast sirloin and two large packs of wings. He then powers through the store, snagging bread, artichokes, chickpeas, and other ingredients. Grand total at the cash register: $71.38.

When it comes to tailgating, Bortnick wants to keep things simple. He whisks together a marinade for both the meat and the chicken. And for dessert, he sets out M&Ms and peanut-butter cookies from a package.

Bortnick also likes to get the food prepped as early as possible. He and his family have been going to games for years, so he’s got the system down.

He sets the chicken wings in the oven, then mixes together a can of artichokes, roasted red peppers, and shredded cheese, which he stuffs inside two loaves of Italian bread. In a blender, he whirls chickpeas, tahini, and lemon juice into thick hummus.

When the wings are cooked about halfway, Bortnick pulls them from the oven and lets them sit in a strainer to drain any extra marinade and fat. They then get a toss in the hot sauce.

If Bortnick were tailgating, he’d pack up the wings and sirloin in a cooler, wrap the stuffed bread in tin foil, grab some pita chips for the hummus, and head to the game. Instead, we head out to my grill, where Bortnick roasts the sirloin over medium-high coals and finishes cooking the wings.

There’s no game on, but we dive into Bortnick’s version of an open-faced roast-beef sandwich on the baked artichoke-and-cheese-stuffed bread. We nosh on M&Ms and pita chips dipped in homemade hummus. And we lick our fingers clean after each wing. A tailgating touchdown.

Recipes serve 15.

Marinade (for beef and chicken)

½ lemon, juiced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon oregano
½ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk the ingredients in a bowl until well combined.

Open-Faced Roast-Beef Sandwiches

5-pound sirloin
2 baguettes
1 can quartered artichokes
½ cup olives
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 bag shredded Italian-blend cheese (provolone, Asiago, and Parmesan)
2 roasted red peppers
½ cup olive oil
Marinade (see above) as needed
Salt and pepper to taste

Season the sirloin with salt and pepper, then cover with the marinade and let sit for about 1 hour (but not much longer—the lemon juice will start to cook the meat). Set up a grill at medium-high heat. Cook the sirloin until it reaches desired doneness.

In a food processor, blend the artichokes, olives, and garlic. Add the shredded cheese, red peppers, and olive oil.
Slice the bread on a diagonal but not all the way through. Stuff with the artichoke mixture.
Wrap the bread in aluminum foil and place on the grill (not over direct heat or it will burn). Let it “bake” 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

Slice the sirloin and serve it on the stuffed bread as an open-faced sandwich.

Chicken Wings

24 chicken wings
Remaining marinade
½ cup hot sauce
1 tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoons mustard
2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar
1 stick butter, melted
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Season the wings with salt and pepper. Cover in the marinade and set aside for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Preheat a roasting pan inside the oven (this keeps the chicken from sticking).
Cook the chicken until it’s halfway done—about 20 to 25 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the oven and drain off any fat or remaining marinade.
In a bowl, mix the hot sauce with the remaining ingredients. Cover the chicken in the sauce.
Finish cooking the wings on a grill over medium-high heat until they are charred.


3 15½-ounce cans chickpeas
5 cloves garlic
6 to 8 teaspoons tahini
1 cup water
1 cup olive oil
½ lemon, juiced
Salt to taste

Rinse the chickpeas. In a food processor, blend the chickpeas, garlic, tahini, and water until broken up. Slowly add the oil until the mixture is has a creamy texture. Season with salt and lemon juice. Serve with pita chips.

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